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Old Feb 8, 11, 7:26 pm   #1
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Verified by Visa Program - old Schwab card is not eligible?

In order to purchase train tickets and bus tickets on the Spaniard national railway system and its many bus companies, one seems to have to use a Visa or MC that has enrolled in the "Verified by Visa Program" and the counterpart of the MC program. Otherwise the credit card would be declined even though your bank is informed by the anticipated foreign transactions. Renfe simply would not process your card.

I first tried to activate the old Schwab now FIA card and it came back as ineligible. At first I thought BofA does not participate the program, but it is not.

Luckily I also have a Chase PC Visa that has 0 forex and it is eligible so I got that card enrolled.

My question to the forum is, has anyone used the FIA card to purchase foreign airline tickets etc online?

I did one about 10 days or so ago on Vueling. The transactions were blocked by FIA 3 times until I finally figured out to call FIA and had the security rep watched the transaction to go through. I have since bought attraction tickets and booked lodgings in Euro and so far OK.

However, reading TripAdvisor on Renfe, the "Alice in Wonderland" style website of the Spaniard national railway, I feel hopeless with the How To instruction that has over 70 items...

I am not sure this is performed as an added security measure by Renfe or is a way to gauging foreigners so they will have to pay full fares versus web fares which can have difference of over 60% discount!
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Old Feb 8, 11, 9:13 pm   #2
 
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Something has changed --- either the RENFE site or the FIA card. Last March (2010) I had no troubles at all purchasing RENFE tickets on the web using my Charles Schwab Visa, in two separate transactions. The first ticket was at a >65% discount, the second much less discounted.

btw, when I subsequently called FIA to inform them of our upcoming journies (some weeks after the online RENFE purchases), they expressed some concern about the Spanish part of the trip, but not the Egypt or Jordan parts ---- the CS agent led me to understand that Spain was then a hot spot (with considerable amounts of credit card fraud occurring in some parts of the country).
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Old Feb 9, 11, 5:44 am   #3
 
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I've never dealt with Spanish train tickets but to answer Happy's question, I have used the Schwab/FIA card to purchase plane tickets (for ravel overseas) on AF and SAS, as well as a host of train tickets in other European countries.

I know nothing about the Renfe situation but is makes no sense to me that they would exclude certain issuer's Visa card. It also makes no sense that they would block foreigners by intent-what does it get them (the foreign currency fees go to the card company). This may be a way for them to reduce fraud and they are having a breach birth in getting it going.
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Old Feb 9, 11, 8:08 am   #4
 
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I had a similar issue with the Master Card version of this program with my Citi MC. Basically, the website I was using (I forget which one) required the use of the verify program, but Citi didn't participate. There didn't seem a way around it, so I used another card.
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Old Feb 10, 11, 8:52 am   #5
 
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We traveled between Barcelona, Madrid, Seville and Granada on tickets purchased from Rail Europe ( http://www.raileurope.com/index.html ) using a Schwab VISA. Had no problem using the card on the web site last August and had no problem using the card at the train station in October when we had to change one of the tickets.
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Old Feb 10, 11, 9:46 am   #6
mia
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Mountain Trader View Post
... makes no sense that they would block foreigners by intent-what does it get them...
If I correctly understand Happy's conjecture it generates higher fares because tourists, who cannot use the website, wait to purchase tickets in person, losing the opportunity to qualify for the cheapest advance purchase fares.
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Old Feb 10, 11, 10:15 am   #7
 
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Quote:
Originally Posted by MellieAZ View Post
We traveled between Barcelona, Madrid, Seville and Granada on tickets purchased from Rail Europe ( http://www.raileurope.com/index.html ) using a Schwab VISA. Had no problem using the card on the web site last August and had no problem using the card at the train station in October when we had to change one of the tickets.
raileurope is a US operation, so I wouldn't expect any problems with a US credit card.

The renfe web site is the issue. Reports are mixed on using US credit cards.

At the train station, were you using the ticket agents or machines? In my experience, train agents in Europe seldom have a problem with US credit cards, while the machines can be an issue. Using ticket agents often requires standing on line and hours may be limited.
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Old Feb 11, 11, 6:50 am   #8
 
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Quote:
Originally Posted by richarddd View Post
.

At the train station, were you using the ticket agents or machines?
We purchased from an agent.
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Old Feb 11, 11, 8:41 am   #9
 
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It's hard to imagine that a rail system would try to preserve cheaper fares for locals in this way. It would be far easier to just give then a discount based on residence. However, I don't know so I can only guess.

In any event, someone should point FIA to this and encourage them to follow-up. If their cards do not work, while other US issued cards do, I would think that would be of concern to them.

BTW, I have found in every case I have tried that buying tickets from the local rail company was never more expensive than Rail Europe and is often cheaper, sometimes dramatically so.
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Old Feb 20, 11, 3:05 pm   #10
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UPDATE with some important data points

Quote:
Originally Posted by Mountain Trader View Post
In any event, someone should point FIA to this and encourage them to follow-up. If their cards do not work, while other US issued cards do, I would think that would be of concern to them.

FIA KNOWS but claim they CHOOSE to not participate.

BTW, I have found in every case I have tried that buying tickets from the local rail company was never more expensive than Rail Europe and is often cheaper, sometimes dramatically so.

Right you are!
This may help others who are in need to buy train tickets with Renfe either they need local train tickets or they want to leap the advance purchase deep discount.

Though the post may be better suited to Travel forum. TripAdvisor Madrid Forum has a very detailed STICKY that anyone needs to use Renfe should spend some time to read and understand it.

FIA cards definitely do not participate Visa Verified, and the reps told me even the BofA cards, they believe only the debit cards participated. I do not have BofA card so no idea. Capital One Mastercards participate in MC's securecoded, but Citicards do not. AMEX is completely out of the picture.

This seems to be the trend for many European online purchases - that the CCs must be registered with one or the other "security verification" program in order to be accepted for transaction.

About why not use Rail Europe to buy tickets.

Rail Europe may not even sell local train tickets for one thing. For another, it sells tickets at FULL prices which can be more than doubled than advance purchase prices.

During peak season or festival times such as the Holy Week or April Fair, local trains can be full. I was forced to give up a scheduled stay at Ronda in Andalusia because the daily 4 trains from Granada to Ronda were initially blocked for my date, and then when it finally unblocked, it was FULL. No train. By bus it would be a convoluted routing - Granada to Malaga 2 hours bus and then Malaga to Ronda 3 hours bus because this section is ALL very mountainous winding roads, versus the train is less than 3 hours train ride.

Because of that I had to scrape Ronda from the itinerary and thankfully the hotel booking was cancelable though I lost a $50 Expedia coupon on that. Now we will take an ALSA bus from Granada to Seville instead, and I booked the last room available on Booking.com that was below 100 euro on that night - actually is a one-bedroom apartment across the river from the Golden Tower. Else the town is almost sold out until you go up to 250 to 350 Euro till Good Friday.

FWIW, this year's April Fair actually starts from May 3rd, probably due to Holy Week is so close to end of April (18th to 24th).

The AVE can be discounted by 60% on some routes - like the Cordoba to Madrid the discounted advance purchase web fares on some time slots are only 27 euro versus what you would need to pay on Rail Europe at 70 euro. So if you dont want to be bothered by Renfe's nuttiness you can certainly buy it from Rail Europe but pay double or more. These are the options. There are 2 other sites seem to sell Renfe tickets with commission, one has English and the other is strictly Spanish - they are http://petrabax.com/ and http://negocios.rumbo.es/?utm_source...ner-header-top They directly pull info from Renfe own site, so if Renfe shows no train, they show the same. Although reportedly one can use a Non-verified Visa or Non-coded MC to make purchase, and pay the commission of about 5 to 7% I believe, still far cheaper than Rail Europe which in many cases are rip-offs to the Americans and Canadians.

For those who said they could buy tickets in the past with their US-issued cards no issue - it is no longer true - UNLESS your card is registered for Visa Verified, or Mastercard securecoded program. All other cards would get an error message and transaction failed. In fact, even if the card is a Visa verified, when Visa Verified tried to communicate with your bank and your bank happens to have scheduled maintenance at the time, the transaction failed. This happened to me last night when Chase was on scheduled maintenance, but the transaction went through when Chase went back up after 2PM today.

According to Chase, the Visa Verified is a totally separate verification program which first verified the card is authentic, then send the info to the bank just as we normally make an online purchase. The bank then let the authorization go through and bounce back to the merchant.

During my attempt to purchase, Chase was not fully functional, so the transaction despite being verified by the program, it failed. Chase did not even see the authorization while Visa Verified Manage My Account shows Renfe authorized. The linkage broke so the transaction failed.

I re-tried after Chase went back up this afternoon at 3:30PM and the transaction sailed through after the card was verified by the program.

So when you are ready to purchase, not only your card should be already a registered one, but also check your issuer to make sure their system is running normally to avoid headache.

It is too bad that Citi does not participate in Mastercard securecoded.

Last edited by Happy; Feb 20, 11 at 3:15 pm..
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Old Feb 21, 11, 9:22 am   #11
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UPDATE: Web discount on AVE is HUGE

Today is the 62 days before our travel date from Cordoba to Madrid.

Web fares became available on Renfe site starting 07:00 CEST. (It does not always up and running at that hour - more like 08:00 CEST when you would not get a operation error.)

I did not stay up late last night to buy it but was pleasantly surprised that the AVE at 17:00 departure still has web fare of 27.40 euro available. Normal fare is 68.40 euro and that is what you would pay if you buy it from Rail Europe.

It looks like we bought the last pair of seats at the 27.40 euro price. Now the cheapest for this train is at 41.10 euro.

Most web fares for day before were gone by the way, leaving only morning and late evening trains still have web fares.

Rail Europe does not even offer Tourista class, nor the Preferente class. (restricted economy and restricted first class - both are unchangeable but cancelable with 30% fee). It only offers the flexible economy and first class (Club) - changeable with 15% fee.

The price difference simply is too big to justify buying it from Rail Europe which is truly a rip-off if all you want is just individual journey, not a pass.

Last edited by Happy; Feb 21, 11 at 10:06 am..
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Old Feb 23, 11, 10:33 pm   #12
 
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In my experience, Rail Europe often has higher prices and also doesn't seem to offer special discounts like student and senior in at least some cases. A trip I looked at today priced at around $380 on the French rail wesite and it was $500 for the exact same trains on Rail Europe.

A great resource for European rail travel is the blog Seat 61.
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Old Feb 24, 11, 3:18 pm   #13
 
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I think this is why I couldn't use my Schwab Visa at koffer-direkt.com to buy my Rimowa luiggage. they said something about a verification program that my card didn't have.

Last edited by mia; Feb 25, 11 at 7:44 am.. Reason: Please do not quote the full text of multi-paragraph messages
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